By Siraj Wahab
A notorious sectarian leader in Iraq has claimed that the Shiite project of encircling and dominating the Middle Eastern states is on track.
Delivering a speech in Arabic, at a graduation ceremony of Shiite clerics in Iraq on Thursday, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia commander Qais Al-Khazali said: “The reappearance of Imam Mahdi will mark the completion of the Shiite project. Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Houthis are working hard to make the ground fertile for Imam Mahdi.”
Al-Khazali was referring to the Shiite belief that Imam Mahdi — the 12th and last Shiite imam who disappeared in the 9th century — will one day appear in order to bring justice to earth.
Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, which Al-Khazali leads, is one of the most violent Shiite militias in Iraq. It is aided and abetted by Iran. Al-Khazali reportedly said: “We’ll continue to work toward our project of a Shiite full moon, not a Shiite crescent as our enemies say.”
The phrase “Shiite crescent” was first coined by King Abdallah of Jordan 10 years ago. At that time, he meant Iranian control over Lebanon via Hezbollah, Syria via the Bashar Assad regime, and Iraq through the new Iran-allied government in Baghdad. Al-Khazali is now talking of a “Shiite full moon.”
“They (Iran and its allied militias) are looking for complete regional dominance,” said political analyst and former US diplomat Ali Khedery.
Talking to Arab News on Thursday, Khedery explained the background of Al-Khazali and the implications of his statement.
“Al-Khazali is the commander of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. It used to be part of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Jaish Al-Mahdi but then splintered off. It was specially cultivated by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ special forces unit, the Al-Quds Force.
“Asaib Ahl Al-Haq is one of the most violent Shiite militias that has operated in Iraq alongside, for example, Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Badr Corps, and they report directly to Al-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani,” said Khedery.
According to Khedery, Al-Khazali was responsible for the kidnapping and then the killing of five American soldiers from a joint Iraqi-American Operations Center in 2007 in Karbala.
“As a result of that kidnapping and murder operation, US forces arrested him and held him for several years in a facility called Camp Cropper — the same high-value detainee facility where the Americans held Saddam Hussein. Al-Khazali was later released at Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s personal request,” Khedery told Arab News.
He said during the Iraq war, the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia was responsible for killing and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of US soldiers and then also kidnapping or killing probably thousands of Iraqis.
“After the rise of Daesh, it became very active again and is now part of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) to which the Iraqi government pays billions of dollars annually. It is now a virtual extension of the Iraqi Army,” he said.
Khedery said he would advise the international community against doubting the words and statements of these militia leaders.
“I take Iranian generals or the supreme leader or the militia commanders at their word because they have always — almost always — followed through on their threats. So, for example, when the Iranian supreme leader promises to wipe out Israel or when the Iranian defense minister threatens Saudi Arabia, or when Qassem Soleimani promises to change the regime in Bahrain or when Al-Khazali, in this case, promises to complete the Shiite crescent and make it a moon, I take them at their word,” said Khedery. “They are intent on exporting (former Iranian leader Ruhollah) Khomeini’s revolution across the Middle East.”
Since King Abdallah’s coinage of the phrase “Shiite crescent” 10 years ago, “the Iranians have unfortunately consolidated their grip over Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Iranian forces (have) further expanded into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now they take Pakistani and Afghan recruits and send them to wage Khomeinist jihad in places like Iraq and Syria,” said Khedery. “They want to keep going with the export of the Khomeinist revolution. So their next targets are Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and then probably eventually Qatar and the UAE. And obviously, the Iranian-allied Houthis have taken control of Sanaa.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh echoed Khedery’s words and said Asaib Ahl Al-Haq was an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, which has reportedly received significant financial, military and political support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Al-Khazali’s statement highlights three critical issues,” Rafizadeh told Arab News. “First of all, Iran and its proxies’ political agenda is anchored in sectarianism: Shiite versus Sunni. Second, although Iran views itself as leader of all Muslims, Tehran has been working effortlessly to export its particular version of Shiite ideology and revolutionary ideals. Third, Iran is determined to export its Shiite ideology through any possible means, including supporting many militias and designated terrorist groups.”
In Rafizadeh’s view, Iran’s Shiite proxies are determined and insistent on expanding Tehran’s political Shiite influence throughout the Muslim world as a means of dominating and controlling other populations.